Laurie Taylor Column

April 14, 2006

" Southampton Solent University has launched the world's first degree in comedy writing and performance " - The Times Higher, April 7 Good morning and welcome to your degree course in comedy.

In today's opening lecture, I will be considering a topic of fundamental importance to any historical or contemporary understanding of humour - the intrinsic nature of jokes.

As you will see from your handout, we will begin our study with a classification of jokes based upon an alphabetical ordering of their subject matter.

This means that our first topic will be jokes that are primarily concerned with accidents. Here are three classical examples from that category: A man goes into a pub and admires the stuffed lion's head mounted above the bar. "What a great trophy!" the man says to the barman.

"I wouldn't call it great," the barman replies. "That damn lion killed my wife." "My God - were you on safari?" "No," the barman replies.

And number two:

A cowboy is buying an insurance policy. The agent asks if he has ever had any accidents, and the cowboy says no. "But on the application form you say you were recently bitten by a snake," the agent says. "Wouldn't you consider that an accident?"

And number three:

An Essex girl is involved in a bad traffic accident. A paramedic rushes to her aid. "Whereabouts are you bleeding from?" he asks.

So, there we have it. Three classical examples of Accident jokes. Before we analyse their common characteristics, let me ask if there are any questions so far. Yes, the boy at the back with the large glasses. Name?

Leacock, sir. It's only a small point, but none of the jokes you just told seemed at all funny.

Thank you, Leacock. Well observed. And I wish it were otherwise. But I'm afraid I have to announce that in line with the current industrial action being undertaken by my union, Natfhe, I will continue to tell jokes in the usual way but, until further notice, I will be withholding all the punch lines. Now, are there any more questions?

Already registered?

Sign in now if you are already registered or a current subscriber. Or subscribe for unrestricted access to our digital editions and iPad and iPhone app.

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Register to continue  

You've enjoyed reading five THE articles this month. Register now to get five more, or subscribe for unrestricted access.

Most Commented

  • Boats docked in Port Hercule, Monaco

Richard Murphy praises a bold effort to halt tax-dodging by the 1 per cent

It’s a question with no easy answer, finds James Derounian

  • Man walking, University of Oxford campus, photo negative

Donald Brown shares the experiences that prompted him to talk about ‘institutional racism’ at Oxford

  • Egg timer and clock showing deadlines

Meghan Duffy thinks you can get on in academia without being chained to your desk

  • James Fryer illustration (19 November 2015)

With no time for proper peer review and with grade inflation inevitable, one academic felt compelled to resign